The Frontline Equals the Bottom Line

Most of us have heard the expression, “The frontline equals the bottom line,” as it pertains to a company’s employees. It means that as far as the customer is concerned, a company’s frontline employees ARE the company. After all, rarely do customers come in contact with the executives of an organization. Those frontline employees are truly the face of the organization. But as leaders, do we perform in a way that is consistent with the frontline equals the bottom line philosophy? In many cases, I think the answer is no.I was thinking about this issue recently while eating in a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant. As I was observing the employees, the reality of the frontline equals the bottom line really hit me. These servers, bussers, bartenders, etc. are the most important people in the company. I knew this intellectually (I’ve talked about it for years), but the trueness of it hit me at that moment. These employees are typically the lowest paid in the organization, treated as expendable, often treated in a condescending manner, and yet they are the most important people in the company. If these employees fail in their duties, it makes no difference how smart the Sr. VP of Marketing is. The transaction between the customer and the company (the frontline employee) can easily crash and burn if that frontline employee doesn’t do his or her job well. This is true in restaurants, hospitals, banks, grocery stores or any other industry/organization. Executives can call in sick, but if the truck drivers for a distribution center don’t show up one day, now there is a situation. When they do their jobs with pride and enthusiasm, the likelihood of company success is exponentially increased. When they do their jobs with boredom and skepticism, the greatest technology systems in the world won’t help.

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We should treat our frontline employees like the stars that they are. We should honor them for the work that they do because they are the ones that make the world turn. All of our strategies, visions, and corporate goals are only as good as the execution of those plans; and execution ultimately comes down to frontline people doing things. Theirs is the most honest work of all. The customer was either happy or she wasn’t, the delivery happened on time or it didn’t, the cooler was either stocked or not, the food was either hot or it wasn’t. Frontline employees don’t need a report in a binder to know how things are going. The score is real time for them.I think what is missing in business today is knowing the importance of the frontline at a gut level. Most of us know that we should say the frontline is the bottom line, but I don’t think it often shines through in our actions. If it did, we would be having pizza parties regularly, pitching in to help when things are busy, taking employees to lunch regularly to ask what can be improved. We would hold celebrations all the time. We would say thank you at every opportunity. Think about those times in your personal life when you were grateful for something that someone did. I mean truly grateful. Remember how sincere and heartfelt your appreciation was toward that person? Can you remember the last time you showed that level of appreciation to an employee or group of employees in your organization?The need to be appreciated is one of the strongest needs of all. When employees work hard all day, doing the real work of the company, being treated with honor isn’t too much to ask. Asking me to clock in and clock out says something about how you feel about my honor. Giving keys for the supply cabinet only to managers and above says something about how you feel about my honor. Having a lavish holiday party for the executive team while giving me a $2 tree ornament says something about how you feel about my contributions. Walking by the reception desk, the loading dock, or the stockroom without acknowledging employees, taking a moment to see how things are going, or just saying thanks, are all behaviors that tell employees what management really thinks. Is it any wonder that most studies show employee engagement is abysmally low?

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My wife and I used to have a housekeeper, Val, who cleaned our house once a week. She was truly an excellent housekeeper and cleaned even the hardest to reach areas. Debbie (my wife) sincerely appreciated the extra effort and always showed her appreciation. My wife and Val became good friends. One time Val mentioned that although she cleaned a lot of houses, Debbie was the only one who appreciated those extra touches and actually showed appreciation. What is important to note is that Debbie didn’t say thank you to get Val to do the extras. Debbie thanked Val because she did the extras. Val, however, said that she wanted to do more because of the appreciation. It was simply a sincere cycle of performance and appreciation. Saying thank you to people who work hard is simply the right thing to do. And usually when we do the right thing, we get the right thing in return. Not always, but usually.You know who the frontline employees are in your own organization. I challenge you to take a hard look at the level of appreciation that you show those frontline employees.Something to think about: Do your employees know you appreciate them? How do they know you appreciate them

Management Style and the Bottom Line

Quite often, human behavior is imitative. We learn how to act by mimicking others’ actions. In the workplace, most bosses manage as they’ve been managed.Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery; however, some of our role models aren’t necessarily ideal role models. Learned behavior, which is often subconscious and automatic, can seriously undermine efforts to succeed in business.According to research, management style can either benefit or decimate the bottom line. One particular study I recently read found that a negative management style is linked to high turnover. For small businesses, high employee turnover is quite costly and a genuine problem that affects profitability.

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Study authors discovered that managers who provide a supportive and considerate work environment experience significantly lower turnover rates than their counterparts, who operate from a traditional management paradigm, treating workers as disposable resources.An ineffective management style is a common source of small business inefficiency, which inhibits success.Is your management style positive or negative, or somewhere in between? Do you inspire and motivate workers to do their very best, or are you inadvertently de-motivating and disempowering employees?MANAGEMENT STYLE RATERLow 1 2 3 4 5 High1. Do you communicate openly with your employees, ensuring everyone is “in the loop?”2. Would your employees describe you as accessible and approachable?3. Would your employees say you have a good understanding of the problems they face in their jobs?4. Would your employees describe you as flexible?5. Would you help out an employee if he or she had a serious personal problem?6. Do you routinely cross-train workers?7. Do you foster a culture of cooperation within your workplace?8. Do you personally praise workers when they’ve done a good job?9. Do you provide workers with meaningful training?10. Do you ensure workers have adequate resources to perform their jobs?

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Scoring Guide1-15:You operate from a traditional management paradigm. To you, workers are a disposable resource or mere cogs. Expect high turnover and reduced profits if you fail to change your perspective.16-39:You exhibit a mixed management style. You are traditional in many ways, yet in some circumstances you use an enlightened approach in dealing with workers. Shifting your traditional behaviors will reduce turnover and improve your bottom line.40-50:You are an enlightened small business manager. You are adept at handling process and leveraging people. Your approach will lead to efficient management of your small business operation.

The Bottom Line About Sales Leadership Performance

When CEOs look at their sales leaders, what responsibilities do they see they have? Do they see them as customer guardians? Or maybe customer relationship managers? How many CEOs see them as business managers? How many CEOs manage their sales leaders as business managers?From our experience, very few CEOs manage their sales leaders as business managers and often give way to the pressures often applied upwardly by them. Sales leaders have for many years been very good at diverting the attention of CEOs to non-critical tasks, taking actions that seemingly will deliver results but fail to do so. CEOs lose confidence in their sales leaders through the lack of timely actions being taken with deliverable and measurable outcomes. There is a disconnect in the timing with CEOs now talking in months and sales leaders continuing to talk in years.A sales leader can be one of the most important people for company’s growth. Their responsibility is to ensure the sales success of your company. They can try to pass the buck to salespeople but the bottom line is they need to step up and deliver the results with a clear understanding of their impact across the broader company.Sales leader’s decisions immediately impact company operations by the sales results they deliver, the product lines sold, the accuracy of orders taken, pricing decisions. The conduct of their sales force personnel can make or break a company culture and performance.They are responsible for:
The execution of the strategy of what direction your company is headed,
What your company sells and why they sell it,
Which markets to pursue and where the company is positioned in those markets,
The competitive capability against the competition and why you are better or different,
The delivery of the strategy at the customer interface, and
The bottom line of results in revenue and profitability.

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A sales leader who cannot develop effective strategies and execute them to full completion, is of no value to any company. The sales leader must enable systems and processes, administer training that is relevant to the strategy and market, correctly manage productivity and ensure a high level of efficiencies across the sales organization.A sales leader that does not acknowledge their limitation in delivering these fundamental business requirements must accept the consequence of their limitation when results are not delivered. For CEOs they must do the right thing by their company and be honest about where to place blame for struggles and failure to grow sales. The sales people are at all times a product of the sales leader and the blame must therefore fall squarely on their shoulders.The role of the sales leader has matured to such a point now that it is no longer just the narrow narrative of customers and relationships with a management style that allows the business to just flow with the market stream with little guidance. Those clinging to that are certainly not doing the right thing by their company. Sales leaders need to be able to create, implement, monitor, and revise their sales organization consistently, in order to deliver reliable growth. They must have well-defined strategies, processes, and management structure that rolls out through to well defined strategies and execution plans across the sales force. They must have deep measurement of performance of the sales business, not just the salespeople to deliver results.For CEOs that is the ideal person to be leading their sales organization. The reality is that sales excellence requires a multitude of skills and capacities to function effectively and efficiently. Few people in the profession are true management professionals; most individuals employed in management are ill equipped to provide a professional-as opposed to amateurish-level of performance in response to the demands of their positions.”CEOs that employ unqualified individuals will suffer their ignorance and incompetence unless they take drastic action to remedy the problem.”With very few professional sales leaders available or professionally trained for today’s market challenges, the focus for CEOs has shifted to sales leadership development rather than sales leadership acquisition. CEOs need to make hard decisions about their sales organization as this critical role can directly impact their future.They must consider who they are hiring or who they retaining in this critical role. In the absence of quality proven talent, they must to start with raw talent that can be developed and coached to excel. A person with tested core skills and not just rely on ‘gut feel’. A person that is open to being coached and capable of leaving their ego at the door and focus on their own personal development that directly impacts the sales organization.

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The sales leaders must be taught how to drive growth in an organization. Many sales leaders today are only capable of maintaining business and this is reflected in businesses that have stagnated or are achieving on minimal growth. Very few are capable of driving growth through changing markets.Sales leaders need to learn correct timing of decisions, understand how to deliver actions, changes and improvements in a timely manner. They need to change their decision-making from being emotive decisions to being based on hard evidence and facts that can be easily demonstrated to their peers. The facts must be based on consistent information over a period of time and not snap shots based on reactions to sudden (but long simmering) market or internal challenges.CEOs need to change how they manage sales leaders. They need to be critical of reporting and information presented ensuring that the right decisions are being made with consideration to the full impact of those decisions both within the sales organization and across the business.Only then can a CEO be confident their sales organization is being managed effectively.

The Bottom Line in Managing a Retail Shopping Center Successfully

In managing a retail shopping center the issues and tasks to understand are many. The right person with the right experience should be selected for the property management position. Errors or strategic mistakes are likely to have a major impact on property performance and tenant trade. That will then have a flow through effect to the rental structure and the vacancy rate.The bottom line on managing a retail property is that the right tenants must be chosen for the mix. It is difficult for a property to fail if the right tenants have been chosen and well located within the property. Every tenant should be selected on their match to the customer and the location within the existing tenant mix.Certainly a retail property is a fine balance of a number of key factors, but the best property in the right location still requires the correct tenants. The tenant profile will attract more customers to the property over time, and that is exactly what a top retail property requires. Better levels of trade help the tenants thrive and that has a flow through to the landlord’s rental rates and recoveries.

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So how do you know what the customer is looking for by way of tenant services and goods? In simple terms you should get a market survey undertaken of customers and their shopping interests. Here are some considerations for that:Determine the primary market from which the customer will be drawn. A full 80% of business should come from this precinct. Get some maps of the roads and highways around the property; look at the roads and understand how and why people would stop in at the property for goods and services.
If you are managing the property now, you can undertake a survey on site over a number of days of the week. You can also spread that process over a few weeks so you are capturing the complete shopping habits of all the people that visit the property.
If the property is new or still to be constructed, then you should to do a marketing survey by ‘door knocking’ the area locally.
What is the demographic of the local area? Is it made up of predominantly young families, middle ‘nesters’, or older retirees? Will your property need to adjust to the different profiles? How will that impact the tenant mix?
Review the competing properties through the town or suburb. You will find that they have factors of tenant mix, vacancies, rental, and customer profile that will be useful in your property consideration. Look for the strengths and weaknesses in those other properties and then understand how they could have an impact on your property location.

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Shopping centers are vibrant and busy properties to manage. On that basis you should select the right people for your team and ensure that they are managing the property to the needs and profile of the community. Match the tenants in the tenant mix to that equation.